What is a Community?
The word community has been used since the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that sociologists started studying what made communities unique. It was then that they found out that there are many different kinds of communities.
And while the term community is used differently in various disciplines (archeology, ecology, sociology, etc) the “sense of community” which applies to all was identified in 1986 in a study by McMillan and Chavis. They identified four key elements:
- membership: feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of personal relatedness,
- influence: mattering, making a difference to a group and of the group mattering to its members
- reinforcement: integration and fulfillment of needs,
- shared emotional connection.
A community can be a physical location, such as a town or city, where people live near each other and interact on a regular basis. It can also be an online space that connects people from around the world. Communities are made up of members who have something in common – this could be anything from the same hobbies to the same job title.
With the development of communities, especially their online rise, a new role was invented to cater for the needs of these communities, Community Manager.
Community managers understand these dynamics and use them to create communities that are thriving with activity. They know how to build rapport with members, encourage participation, and make sure everyone gets what they need from the community. Community managers also know how to manage conflict within communities so that they stay healthy and active for all members involved.
In this article we’ll focus and help you choose the right platform for your community, share some examples of community building best practices and provide some tips on how to build one that brings value to you and your members.
How to Choose the Right Platform For Your Community
First, let’s be clear on one thing: a community is not the same as a social network. Your community is not Facebook, Instagram, Slack, etc.. Communities are usually created around specific topics, like politics, gardening, or knitting. People in these communities often share information and resources with each other, and they may even meet up in person to discuss their shared interests.
The best way to choose the right platform for your community is to assess what you actually need from it and then compare that with what each platform has to offer.
- Who’s your audience?
- Are you planning events?
- What’s your budget?
- How much time do you have to spend managing your community?
- Are you offering classes?
- Are you a content creator?
- Is it important for you to connect your members with one another?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down which is the best fit for your community.
For content creators, Mighty Networks is likely to be the best fit, with their option to create and sell courses online.
If you’re looking for a free platform, a Facebook group may cut it, but remember that on Facebook, your members and their data is the price to pay.
Looking for a platform where members are the content? Then Lounjee is your best option, as members connect and interact with others with little to no help from the group admin.
There is definitely a plethora of platforms and not all are the right fit for your community. Hence, it’s important to spend some time studying their options, testing their features and see if it is a good match.
And once you’ve settled down for the one that fits, time to follow some good practices.
Examples of Good Practices in Building Communities
Now that you’ve chosen the right platform for your community, what are good practices to make it successful?
The most successful communities are those that are built on trust, authenticity, and transparency. Here are some practices that will help you build a strong community:
– Share valuable content with your community members
– Be open to feedback and suggestions from your audience
– Create an environment where people feel safe to share their thoughts and opinions
You may have heard it a lot already but a good community is one that is built on the foundation of mutual respect, constructive conversations, and active engagement. It’s important to create an environment where all participants feel welcome and valued.
This is the reason we recommend having clear guidelines that outlines the do and don’t for your community. And if you’re looking for good examples to get you started, we’ve got your back. Here are 9 amazing community guidelines examples to help your community growth!
A Few Tips on Building Your Own Community That Converts & Improves Value For Members
A well-built membership community can have a big impact on your business. The benefits of having a membership community are many, but the most important one is that it will improve the value for members.
You should start by defining what you want your membership to achieve. What is your goal for this community? Once you decide on the goals, you should decide how much time and money you are willing to invest in building this community.
And then, we have a few tips to share with our own experience of seeing clients build their community on Lounjee:
- Create an onboarding flow that caters newcomers basic needs
- First actions
- Introduce new members to the community
It can be as simple as: “A warm welcome to @Marie, @Nadia, @Jeff, @Djibril, our newest members:
- Marie Heol – Executive Director @ Adidas
- Nadia Ousmin – Senior Marketing Manager @ Facebook
- Jeff Rogers – Freelance @ Fiverr
- Djibril Cissoko – Art director @ LVMH
How has your “group topic” experience started?
We’d love to hear about your experience!
- Start challenging discussions where members’ “solutions” are demanded
Let’s say your group is about Digital nomadism and you’re looking to go to Prague or Budapest soon. “Has anybody been digital nomading from Prague or Budapest? If yes: Any cool co-working suggestions?” is a sure way to get your members in that area to react to your message.
- Host live events (online and/or offline) regularly
This is key to the success of your community. Members need to interact with each other on a frequent basis, otherwise your community will soon be deserted.
Hosting Webinars regularly, and perhaps a larger event every 2-3 months is a sure way to keep your
party community buzzing.
- Make your community public (at least in its early stages)
Of course, there might be specific easons for you to keep your community “closed”. But my recommendation, at least until you get your first 50 to 100 members, would be to remove any “barriers” at the entrance.
Many members will be discouraged by finding codes or following specific steps to get into your community.
- Invite your first 10 members and encourage them to do specific and valuable actions
You’ve chosen the right platform, your first topics ready but you feel alone in your newly created community.
What I would recommend at this stage is to carefully select the first 10 members you want to invite into your community and make sure to assign them specific tasks to do, e.g:
- Introduce yourself
- Make a first post
- Connect with another member of the community
With these 3 steps, some activity and engagement will be created and when you launch the second phase and invite more people to join, they won’t feel that this is a dead group.
- Create groups, channels, forums for topics or questions that are frequently asked
Your group is about Plant breeding? Then it will make sense for you to create specific discussion topics such as: potato, wheat, rice, corn, etc where members can ask questions, exchange ideas.
Your group is about Digital Nomadism, you may create channels dedicated to a country or a city for instance.
- Talk to your members and ask for their feedback regularly
Nowadays, communities are no longer managed vertically and the opinion and feedback of your members is something you should seek on a regular basis.
Ask them if they enjoyed the latest event, what could have been better, which speaker they would like to have back in the future.
Ask them if they’d like a channel for topic X or Y.
- Build genuine relationships
Giving a like here and there to your members post is not enough. In a world where human interactions have gradually been shrinking to nothingness, make sure to take the time for your members. Provide rich answers to their questions, offer a mentoring session if that’s something they’re looking for, it will pay off in the long term when they’ll engage back with your content and other members in the community.
- Be creative and adapt
When the pandemic started, many communities, especially in the retail area, felt a lot of pressure, with their weekly, monthly or even annual events impossible to organize, to keep contact with their audience.
This is where a Community builder needs to be resilient, creative and adapt. The ones that were able to move forward and make the switch to online events proved to be the most successful shift for brands to remain in contact with their audience.
In the future, if something happens, you’ll have to grit your teeth, pull up your sleeves and embrace the change required to move your community forward.
In conclusion, I hope this article helped you ask the right questions before choosing the platform that matches your community’s needs, and if you have any other good practices or tips on how to manage your community, please leave me a comment!